When it comes to Korean cable network K-dramas, the ones airing on Maeil Broadcasting Network (MBN) or Dramax seem to have a stroke of bad luck. For example, Devilish Joy suffered issues with production in which many cast and crew were not paid. As for another example, Fluttering Love was supposed to mark Yoon Eun-Hye’s grand return to K-dramas, but it was one of the worst-rated K-dramas the network has.
In short, MBN and Dramax just can’t seem to catch a break. However, it seems their luck has turned around first with The Best Chicken. And now that turnaround seems to have continued with Level Up at least internationally. As proof of this, the series actually rated well among international viewers and is currently trending.
Dante saves Joybuster in the finale
Before we continue to the details that show Level Up is doing far better from their MBN and Dramax, it is best to recap what Level Up is.
Ahn Dante (Sung Hoon) is a no-nonsense director who specializes in restructuring bankrupt and struggling companies to be successful. There, Dante runs into Shin Yeon-Hwa (Han Bo-Reum), a game developer for Joybuster, as the two work together along with the rest of the company staff to create a new game to save the company from folding.
Throughout the series, which consists of 12 episodes, the direction was very strict in staying with the plot. By the finale, we got the conclusion most expected: Ahn Dante and the employees of Joystick save the company with a new game.
As for the romance between Ahn Dante and Shin Yeon-Hwa, the entire series concentrated on the build-up until they finally accept each other at the very end of the finale. In some ways, this was smart of MBN and Dramax pertaining to the plot as they’ve made a “comedy of errors” in the past progression a story plotline and love lines.
Level Up also alliterated a running gag throughout the series, having to do with sweetness and honey. In the beginning, we learn that the term “honey-licking” is a negative term in Joybuster as a scene in a promo in which Shin Yeon-Hwa was filmed pouring honey onto her outstretched tongue was taken in a negative light.
It is that negative scenario in which Ahn Dante recognizes Yeon-Hwa. Also, there are scenes the two are chased by bees (because they are attracted to “honey sweetness”) especially in the end after Dante and Yeon-Hwa kiss.
Domestically in Korea, Level Up didn’t do so well compared to the other Korean cable (networks). According to AGB Nielsen Korea, their highest-rated episode was their third episode at 1.388 percent. That is low compared to shows airing on the Total Variety Network (tvN), Orion Cinema Network (OCN), or Joongang Tongyang Broadcasting Company (JTBC).
Internationally on Rakuten Viki however, Level Up was received far more favorably especially when compared to previous MBN/Dramax series. Right now, it has a straight nine out of ten-star rating out of an average of 1717 ratings. It is also the sixth most-popular K-drama on the streaming service, at least for this week.
Ultimately, Level Up was better than its predecessors. If MBN and Dramax continue to pump out quality K-dramas such as Level Up, they too can become a contender in no time.
Level Up is no longer airing domestically in Korea as its finale aired on August 15, 2019, KST. However, the entire series is available to watch for international audiences exclusively on Rakuten Viki as it is a Viki Original. Take note viewers will need a Viki Standard subscription to watch the K-drama too.